Fury as plan for new homes in East Jerusalem is agreed

Scheme to redevelop hotel in Arab part of city further threatens peace talks

A fresh row that could place even further strain on US-Israel relations was triggered yesterday after Jewish settlers were given the final go-ahead to build 20 new homes in a highly sensitive part of Arab East Jerusalem.

Furious Palestinian negotiators denounced the approval for a settlement at the site of the old Shepherd Hotel in Sheikh Jarrah which started to come to light just before the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met the US President Barack Obama on Tuesday night. The White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said yesterday that Washington was seeking "clarification" of the latest building plan and that "areas of disagreement" remained between Israel and the US even after three-and- a-half hours of "honest and straightforward" talks between the two leaders.

The Shepherd Hotel plan is part of a bigger development promoted by the right-wing Jewish American magnate Irving Moskowitz, a major patron of Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem. It will cast a new shadow over US efforts to restart indirect negotiations stalled by plans to construct 1,600 homes in the ultra-orthodox settlement of Ramat Shlomo.

Mr Obama met Mr Netanyahu alone in an attempt to iron out the public differences between the two governments over continued settlement building, especially in East Jerusalem. As Israeli-US meetings continued yesterday in Washington ahead of Mr Netanyahu's return to Israel last night, the Palestinian Authority's chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said: "Israel is digging itself into a hole that it will have to climb out of if it is serious about peace. There is overwhelming international consensus on the illegality of Israel's settlements, including in East Jerusalem, and the damage they are doing to the two-state solution."

Both the US and Britain – whose consulate general would be a near-neighbour of the planned settlement – have long made clear their opposition to the development, which would involve tearing down part of the pre-1967 Palestinian hotel complex to make way for 20 apartments and an underground car park. The site is in the same neighbourhood as a street where there have been three separate evictions of Palestinian families and regular weekly protests, mainly by left-wing Israelis, against encroachments by Jewish settlers.

The municipality complained that the leak of the final approval was "meant to stir up a provocation" during Mr Netanyahu's visit to Washington and said that formal approval had been given last July. The final go-ahead was "automatically" given after the developers paid required fees to the municipality. The move coincides with a declaration by city officials that they had temporarily stopped discussions on expansion building in East Jerusalem since the row over Ramat Shlomo blew up during the visit by the US Vice-President Joe Biden earlier this month. Mr Netanyahu told US Congress members on Monday that he had "no jurisdiction" to stop building in Jerusalem.

Israel unilaterally annexed East Jerusalem after the Six Day War but that has never been accepted by most of the international community, including Britain. Israeli officials have complained that the Palestinians have been using such developments as an excuse to stall talks. "Are we supposed to accept that the annexation was illegal as a precondition of peace talks?" said one. "That is in the realm of fantasy."

But Hagit Ofran, from Peace Now, said: "It seems that the municipality of Jerusalem has it own policy that might be devastating for the peace process and Netanyahu wasn't clear enough in order to stop them from allowing further provocation in East Jerusalem."

* The Israeli military has ordered a military police investigation into the shooting of two unarmed Palestinian teenagers on Saturday.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Front End Web Developer - Magento

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Front End Web Developer is re...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Greater London - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Ric...

SThree: IT Recruitment Consultant

£22500 - £30000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking for experie...

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner / Handyman

£16575 - £18785 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Dundee based butchers requ...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat